I’m Andrew Chirch, an Interfaith advisor and coach. 99 is a special weekly podcast series where we meet for 9 minutes to regroup, re-center ourselves, and prepare for the work ahead.
Subscribe here to listen on your favorite podcast app, or you can use the player at the top of this post. A transcript is below.
I’m speaking to the part of you that is lonely. The part you don’t let anyone see because it’s just too painful.
I’m talking to the part of you that was unkind, or dishonest, or hateful.
I’m talking to that part of you that was there in the moments you’re least proud of. Maybe even ashamed.
From as far back as you can remember, you say you’ve felt loved and welcome in this life…. Mostly.
But in truth, you wonder if that love is conditional.
I mean, you’re allowed in the group – the family – whatever – as long as you play by the rules and behave like you’re’ supposed to. Whatever that means.
What about that other part of you? What would it be like if you could bring your whole self? What would it be like for ALL of you to be out in the open? What would it be like to be loved unconditionally?
That’s where we’re going today on our journey.
I just read something very personal from someone I admire deeply.
They’ve spent their entire life fighting – for two seemingly opposite things.
On one hand, there’s this deep desire to be welcomed…. to be seen and loved without condition. Without condition. Warts and all.
Holy WOW. What would that be like? How amazing? I’m getting chills just thinking about a love so big, so pervasive, that says, “You’re human…. there is nothing a human can do, think, or say that diminishes you.”
On the other hand, they’re doing what we all do sometimes – filtering. Holding back. Because that one thing I did… well…. nobody needs to see that. I mean seriously, that was the lowest of the low moments in my life. If I let you see it, then everything else about me is colored by it, no?
That’s just it. The sort of love and kindness and mercy that we’re in company with today don’t care what you’ve done. This is the sort of kindness that infects you when you least want it. You know what I mean? That friend that comes when you’re at rock bottom.
“GO AWAY! Leave me alone!” you say – and you mean it.
You secretly hope they don’t. Because as much as you don’t want what they’re bringing, you need it.
I told my twelve-year-old daughter about today’s topic and asked her what she thought it meant… this kind of fierce, unconditional love and kindness.
She blurted out, “Dumbledore!”
“Dumbledore. You’re describing the feeling I get whenever Dumbledore shows up in Harry Potter. It’s all in his eyes, ya know – it’s the strong kind of kindness and love, not the weak kind.”
Of course, I pretended that I could have come up with something half this wise.
There’s a song I sometimes use in times of trouble.
Comfort me, oh my soul.
Comfort me, oh my soul.
Then you change out the word comfort and repeat. Things like:
Speak to me,
Speak to me,
Walk with me,
Protect me, and so on.
It’s funny. The first time I heard it was on an election night when some people were shocked at the outcome, and had real fear about what was going to happen.
Not knowing what to do, they came to a neighborhood house of worship that had its doors open and hundreds of candles lit outside on the entrance steps.
About twenty people gathered at first and mostly sat together in silence, just needing company, but having that GO AWAY! feeling.
Someone started that song quietly, and in just a few moments, everyone there started to join in. Tears were streaming, more people were packing into the small space, and no one had to say ANYTHING else. That room felt like being steeped in a tea of kindness and care and that’s what we all did.
I later learned that the same song had been sung in New York on 9/11 and in the days after when people just needed this kindness to push back against the dark.
People can bring it to you. Music can bring it to you. Dumbledore can bring it to you… It’s kind of like spiritual first aid.
Here’s the part that really gives me hope.
You have the power to bring it to others. You’ve already done it. Someone has been trying to have a bad day or to hate themselves and the whole world and along you’ve come and RUINED IT!
In Islam, this is one of the traits of the Divine and some say it works the same way steel is made. You know steel? The metal – mostly iron, but stronger because it isn’t brittle. It’s been seasoned by other ingredients and then undergone a series of shocks of heat and cold.
You’ve been through your own cycles of shocks and recoveries. Like steel, you’re stronger now. Unlike steel, you have the ability to share this transformation.
Take your own strength and kindness and infect others. Start an outbreak.
Those around you are going through their own painful process of being tempered by this life.
Be their Dumbledore. Infuse them with a compassion and understanding they’ll want to reject, but can’t. Let them feel that there is nothing they can do that is beyond forgiveness.
Nothing you are and nothing you do is beyond love.